Let’s take a look at an emotional issue with some facts, which always goes well.
Apparently Kirk Herbstreit, Chris Fowler, and Chris Fallica of ESPN College Gameday fame took to Instagram Live recently and a video has surfaced of them besmirching the reputation of our beloved Kyle Field. The video below was tweeted out by a Longhorn fan account that definitely does not care. I have transcribed it below as well.
Gameday crew discussing on Instagram Live how Texas A&M never wins big games at Kyle Field, and question how intimidating the environment is.— Texas Takeover (@TexasTakeover05) October 6, 2019
"Why do we build it up so much?" -Kirk Herbstreit pic.twitter.com/rONV5TF8d3
Kirk Herbstreit: Real quick, how about Kyle Field? Like, what’s A&M’s record at home nowadays?
Chris Fallica: Zero and two hundred ninety-si— they never, they don’t...
KH: What was the last big game A&M won at home?
Chris Fowler: Well they beat Alabama that time in Alabama with Johnny Manziel.
Fallica: They won the LSU overtime game last year.
KH: Well yeah yeah yeah, but I’m talking about, we brag about Kyle Field like 12th Man—
Fallica: No. Never. Never. Like, no.
KH: Like... R.C. Slocum?
Fallica: Before that. Probably Jackie.
KH: Why do we build it up though?
Fowler: It’s a great environment. It’s a great environment.
KH: No no no, [to camera] come back here. I’m not doubting that it’s not a great environment. I’m saying is it an intimidating environment?
Fallica: No. You would think it is, the stadium is, but they don’t seem to win big games...
I have no further context for you, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna join Instagram to find out. Whatever other caveats may have been thrown in later, this video certainly calls out Kyle Field as not an intimidating place to play as a visiting football team.
Predictably, Longhorn Twitter is reveling in this video and Aggie Twitter has circled into full defensive posture. People are angry that the college football gods have decried Kyle Field and cast it down as a one of the monuments to home field advantage.
Were they wrong, though?
I did a quick dive into A&M’s successes and failures from the R.C. Slocum years on, and the data seems to suggest Herby is correct in saying what some of us have known for years. First let’s look at A&M’s overall wins vs. their home wins.
What immediately jumps out in this graph is that there was a magical time we called the 90’s where it was almost impossible for opposing teams to win at Kyle Field. I came to A&M at the tail end of the late 90’s home winning streak, and I will never forget when Colorado beat us and not a single student in the stands knew the words to “The 12th Man” because that’s the song we play when we lose and no one had ever heard it before.
Kyle Field has not known that level of dominance in this century. 2002 was the first time that our overall success rate was higher than our success rate at home. That’s happened twice since joining the SEC, and a couple of the other years have been pretty close.
But hey, something something Big 12 something Kansas something something Iowa State, right? OK, the Gameday fellas specifically called out our performance in big games at home. How do we look against ranked opponents?
For starters let me point out that I left out 1990 through 1992 because we did not actually play any ranked teams at home. Also, anyone who watched Aggie football in the aughts is not surprised that we just generally weren’t very good against ranked opponents regardless of where we were. Since 2010 we are more successful than we were, but Kyle Field is notably less of an advantage than it clearly was in the 90s. Compare 2012-2014 with 1997-1999: in those years our overall success against ranked teams was comparable, but in the former we were winless at home and in the latter we were undefeated. Now remember that we also had Johnny Manziel.
By comparing the difference between our overall success rate in a season with our success rate at home, we can come up with a crude metric for home field advantage.
The subtle statement of this graphic is that the overall home field advantage of Kyle Field dipped to its lowest during the Kevin Sumlin years. The more dramatic is how markedly easier it is for ranked teams to win in Kyle Field now than it was in the Roarin’ 90’s.
There are a thousand reasons for these numbers. Maybe it’s because since joining the SEC the Aggies have played one of the two teams that made it to the national championship game every year except one (although not always at home). Maybe it’s because SEC vs. Big12-2-2+1LOL. Maybe it’s because back in the day we had the Wrecking Crew and a physically abusive defense is a very intimidating thing. Maybe it’s because we just aren’t as good a team as we were in the 90’s.
No one (including the guys in the video) is calling out the 12th Man for a lack of noise, enthusiasm, and pure dedication. If anything I’d argue that, given the results on the field, the dedication of the A&M student body is even more impressive. We all love our home, even when it may not love us back.
Draw your own conclusions for what all of this means, but it’s hard to argue that the Gameday guys are wrong.